At the moment, Barcelona-based artist Giorgio Ermes Celin is working on a series entitled Pajaros del Atlantico, “and [I] probably will for all my life,” he states. The project “deals with being part of the Latinx diaspora”, Giorgio tells us, but it also more generally explores the experience of being an immigrant, “giving the world stories about people that had to leave their home countries or that grew up between cultures,” he says. As such, themes of nostalgia, the “longing for a place to call home”, and representation emerge in each brushstroke.
Giorgio was born in the Colombian Caribbean, but grew up in the countryside in South Italy; “I can say it was a big geographical and cultural shock,” he says. This experience, part of a “never-ending migratory journey” for Giorgio, has come to inform much of his work, and identity: “First and foremost I identify as an immigrant,” he says. “It’s in my genes, it’s the story of my grandfathers, my brothers, my mom.” After never seeing people celebrating immigrants growing up, his paintings serve to uplift those stories now.
Giorgio’s work is also marked by how personal themes play out on the canvas. In another series, Corazonada parisina – a phrase Giorgio says has no literal translation in English but roughly means “hunch, coming from your heart” – reflects a time in Paris when he was getting close with someone, when suddenly he was faced with “a corazonada”: “a moment of confusion: is this person going to break my heart?”
Scenes of intimacy and elusive moments are expressed frequently in his paintings, often captured under a changing sky. Figures converge, placed cheek to cheek, their forms ripplings across the work as one. This sense of movement is not something you can achieve with overbaking; speed is important for Giorgio: “Working on a piece for months throws me off. I need the paintings to be fresh, clean, and simple,” he emphasises. While simplicity is a driving force for Giorgio, so are references. From anime to “the classics”: “early renaissance, Italian mannerism, Neapolitan Caravaggism”, he lists, influences that are evident in how he uses light and distorted bodies to express ideas.
Arriving at this style “was a long-ass process”, says Giorgio. A crucial step along the way was learning the importance of copying. “I made copies of my own copies, in order to understand what makes my style mine and learning how to turn what people perceive as “error” (there is no such thing in art) into a style choice.” After initially being discouraged by oil after trying the medium out for a Sailor Moon painting, Giorgio spent a long period “buying these huge rolls of linen in the Resina market” and painting, painting, painting, he says. This culminated in an epiphany for the artist, finally feeling free to use the medium and references he wanted, “to be queer, to be open and honest, without comparing myself to anyone”.
This period of practice is evident in his practice now, partly because of his command over the medium, partly because of the immediacy evident in his work today – and the honesty present because of it.
Giorgio Ermes Celin: Pájaros del Atlántico V (Copyright © Giorgio Ermes Celin, 2021)
About the Author
Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating from the University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, Indie magazine and design studio Evermade.